6 Surprising Facts About Jim Henson

Jim Henson attends the 1985 BAFTA Awards at London's Grosvenor Hotel.
Jim Henson attends the 1985 BAFTA Awards at London's Grosvenor Hotel.
John Gooch/Keystone/Hulton Archives/Getty Images

If there’s anyone to thank for your early childhood television obsessions—specifically of the puppet variety—it’s Jim Henson. The famed puppeteer and artist created the Muppets, including Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog, and Sesame Street's original fuzzy residents like Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. Over the course of his long career, Henson—who was born on September 24, 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi—directed feature films, including the cult favorite Labyrinth, and established The Jim Henson Company. But Henson's life wasn’t all about teaching kids to count or how to sing the “Rainbow Connection." Read on for more facts about this pop culture icon.

1. Jim Henson met his wife in puppetry class.

In 1954, when he was a college freshman at the University of Maryland, Henson met Jane Nebel in a puppetry course. Then teenagers, the two started working together on various projects for school, and later fell in love. They were married in May of 1959, and their first home included a puppetry workshop. The couple had five children, some of whom have followed in their famous father's footsteps (their daughter Lisa Henson is CEO and president of The Jim Henson Company). Though they separated later in life, they remained legally married until Jim's death on May 16, 1990.

2. Jim Henson’s original Kermit the Frog was made from old coats and ping pong balls.

Kermit the Frog first appeared in Henson’s 1955 television show Sam and Friends, which won the artist his very first Emmy. The short, late-night puppet show, created by Henson and friends at the University of Maryland, featured a few characters who would later become Muppets, including Kermit—a frog reportedly made out of some coats from Henson’s mother and a couple of ping pong balls. The puppeteer called the frog “an alter ego” of sorts, saying that he was “a little snarkier than I am.” Kermit would later appear on Sesame Street when the show premiered in 1969.

3. Jim Henson dreamed of opening a nightclub.

In the late 1960s, Henson got the idea for a kind of immersive experience nightclub, which he dubbed Cyclia. As described by Brian Jay Jones in Jim Henson: The Biography, Cyclia was supposed to have featured images and experimental films projected onto the walls and ceilings, timed with a music playlist to create a holistic experience bringing together film, dance, and music. Henson never got the club off the ground, but he did film a lot of visuals intended for the club, some of which The Jim Henson Company has since released on YouTube (like the one above).

4. Jim Henson made many experimental films—some of which you can watch right now.

Over the course of his career, Henson made many experimental films, including 1965’s Time Piece, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short. Not only did Henson write and direct the film, he also starred in it, playing the role of “Man.” (Fun fact: Famed puppeteer Frank Oz, who played Yoda in Star Wars and Miss Piggy in The Muppets, among others, also appeared in the short as “Messenger boy.”)

Musing on his career in the 1960s, Henson said that he saw his work as separated into two categories: “One was accepted by the audience and was successful, and that was Muppets. The other [experimental films] was something I was very interested in and enjoyed, [but] ... didn’t have that commercial success.”

5. Jim Henson tricked his son into voicing Hoggle in Labyrinth.

One of Henson’s sons, Brian Henson, followed his father’s path and became a performer and puppeteer. Though he would frequently help out in his father’s various productions, it wasn’t until 1986's Labyrinth that Brian would join his dad full-time on the set as a puppeteer coordinator. During filming, he read the lines of Hoggle as he operated the puppet behind the camera, all the while believing his father would re-record the lines with another actor in post-production. “My dad was always going to replace my voice,” Brian told SyFy. “And then in the end he goes, ‘You know, let’s keep it.’ And I was like, ‘Come on Dad, that’s hardly an English accent.’ And he said, ‘No. It’s just so weird. It’s kind of good.’”

6. Jim Henson wrote letters to his family in the event of his death four years before he passed away.

In 1986, despite being in seemingly good health, Henson decided to write two letters to be opened in the event of his death—one for his children, and the other for his family and friends. To his children, he promised to watch over them if he could, and left them with one last piece of fatherly advice: "Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It’s a good life, enjoy it."

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

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By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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15 Extremely Valuable Funko Pop! Figures That Might Be Hiding In Your Collection

In the 1990s, collectors salivated over Beanie Babies. In the 2000s, it was Pokemon. Today, the collectibles market is dominated by Funko Pops!, the ubiquitous vinyl figures that turn pop culture characters into block-headed, saucer-eyed cute bombs.

While Funko has a deep bench of licenses, many figures are exclusive to retailers, available for a limited time, or are otherwise hard to find. After perusing recent auction sales and Funko online price guides, we’ve excavated a few figures that are being bought and sold for stacks of cash larger than the toys themselves—and could be hiding in your very own collection. Take a look at 15 of the most sought after and valuable Funko Pop! figures that could net you a small fortune on the secondary market.

1. Ghost Rider Metallic Freddy Funko // $4210

The spirit of vengeance was unleashed as an ultra-exclusive variant edition that's a mash-up of the Marvel hero with Funko mascot Freddy Funko. Released in 2013, it was limited to just 12 figures. As a result, it’s a high-ticket item. The Pop Price Guide, which tracks Funko Pop! values and sales, estimates it at $4210.

2. She-Ra // $690

Funko

The warrior princess of the 1980s Masters of the Universe spin-off cartoon made a splash in 2013. The figure wasn’t a limited edition, but so many fans snapped her up that she’s hard to find.

3. Mike Wazowski Glow-in-the-Dark // $1960

The jolly green creature from 2001’s Monsters, Inc. was available in a limited glow-in-the-dark edition beginning in 2011, but collectors had to go on a scavenger hunt—only 480 were produced.

4. Reggae Rasta // $1200

Walmart

This Bob Marley-inspired figure has been sought after by collectors for sporting a limited-edition green outfit instead of the multi-colored one in the image seen above. That regular version sells for around $400.

5. Holographic Darth Maul // $5070

The horned villain from The Phantom Menace, 1999’s Star Wars prequel, got the glow-in-the-dark treatment from Funko in 2012. San Diego Comic-Con attendees had first crack at the variant, which was limited to 480 figures.

6. Master Chief // $650

Funko

The hero of the Halo 4 video game was a Blockbuster Video exclusive and commands $650 on the open market.

7. Ken Griffey Jr. Bronze // $3150

One of Major League Baseball’s most celebrated players got the Pop! treatment in 2018, with just 24 gold-finish variants made for fans at Seattle's Safeco Field (which was renamed T-Mobile Park in late 2018). The current market value is $3150.

8. Headless Ned Stark // $980

Funko

One of the most tragic and unexpected deaths on Game of Thrones was immortalized in this 2013 San Diego Comic-Con exclusive, which features the head of the Stark family and his detachable melon. The Pop Price Guide has valued Stark at $980.

9. Black Ranger Freddy Funko // $1850

This hybrid of Funko mascot Freddy Funko and the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was limited to fans attending the Funko Fundays event at 2017's San Diego Comic-Con. Only 24 were produced, which is why they’re extremely difficult to find, even on auction sites.

10. The Notorious B.I.G. Metallic // $1930

Funko

The late rap headliner got the deluxe treatment in 2011, with a metallic coat and hat version that was limited to 240 pieces. (The regular version is pictured.) Its listed value is $1930.

11. Batman Blue Metallic // $1400

The Dark Knight is looking a little more ostentatious in this 2010 San Diego Comic-Con offering, with a shiny blue cowl and accessories.

12. 1970s Elvis Presley Glow-in-the-Dark // $2170

Funko

A 1970s-era Elvis (above) comes in a special glow-in-the-dark version that has an estimated value of $2170. Another limited chase figure that depicts him at the height of his powers in the 1950s will run you as much as $1700.

13. Clown Dumbo // $5900

The ear-shaming of Disney’s 1941 animated classic Dumbo continues to strike a chord with people. The 2013 edition of Dumbo in clown make-up was limited to 48 pieces for San Diego Comic-Con attendees.

14. Planet Arlia Vegeta // $3500

Funko

The flame-haired Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z was exclusive to fans at the 2014 New York Comic Con and the Toy Tokyo store in New York City.

15. Bob’s Big Boy // $850

This iconic advertising character was a San Diego Comic Con exclusive in 2016. Only 1000 were made.

This story was updated in 2020.